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Sounds alright

While screens have become brighter, bigger and better, and digital music players have become more capable and compact, the audio aspect of the proposition, which is clearly the most important part when it comes to music, has often been left lagging. The classic example being the first iPods – still in my opinion high on the list of greatest gadgets of all time - being delivered with the iconic white earphones. Iconic but not in the same quality league as the iPod's themselves.

This has changed over recent years. Headphones, as well as other audio equipment, have become more important, both in terms of their quality and as a fashion accessory in their own right. And at the Gadget Show Live (held earlier this month) there was a veritable wave of new headphone and audio designs, with Bluetooth connectivity to the fore.

What is more is that they represent a genuine market opportunity for consumer electronics designers in the UK as it is a market dominated by specialists rather than the traditional electronics superpowers. For one thing, unlike their host devices, they are not as price sensitive. Sort the headphone list by price (high to low!) on Amazon and you will be presented with some eye-watering alternatives on the first page.

Some of these come from western Europe, and none of them come from the tier one consumer electronics companies. So, despite the notion (or self-fulfilling prophesy), that we 'don't do' consumer electronics in the UK – why not? The ESCO report published last year said: 'consumer electronics being the prime example where there is a presence in the UK of several of the world's leading technology providers but few of the world's leading brands consuming that technology within the UK.'

Wolfson is a great example of company entirely focussed on audio technology – technology that has won its place in the majority of designs that use mobile audio. So why hasn't a UK community built up around them, with a raft of UK consumer brands based on Wolfson technology? The ESCO report continued that the goal should be 'to support UK business growth to see more UK companies with globally dominant consumer-facing brands'.

Consumer electronics isn't all about microwaves and mobiles. The Gadget Show showed that there is an opportunity for premium brands and quality audio, it appears, is something people are prepared to pay for.

Author
Tim Fryer

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